Change can be rough, and that's certainly been the case for 510 Fifth Avenue, the landmarked Manufacturers Trust Company Building, now sporting a new look from owner Steve Roth of Vornado Realty and his architectural team at SOM. With permission granted by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, they've reshaped the 1954 modernist masterpiece for Canadian retailer Joe Fresh. As with any remodel, and even more so when it involves minimalism, the devil is in the details. Now that the landmarked interior has been redone and the store is finally open for shopping, folks will be able to take a look at old Manny Hanny and judge for themselves.
When the original Gordon Bunshaft interior was landmarked early last year, the event was seen as a celebration of New York's modernist heritage, but that quickly devolved into a saga of revised plans and lengthy lawsuits. One positive outcome of that legal wrangle was the promised return of the building's Harry Bertoia sculptural screen, which had been removed when the property changed hands a few months earlier. In a notable rant, architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable labeled that act "a perverse form of preservation."
After the lawsuit was settled, the preservationists thought their prayers had been answered. The original Bertoia is back home in all its metallic glory, with Vornado's proposed replacement, a knock off in aluminum, nowhere to be seen. But Bertoia's hidden behind the new beefy steel 'n' glass elevator and, preservationist Michael Gotkin noted after seeing the new set up, "We're very pleased the the sculpture is back, but the many details carefully crafted by Bunshaft and Bertoia are now lost in a morass of merchandise." Mayor Bloomberg seems to think otherwise, declaring at the opening festivities that Joe Fresh is "the greatest Canadian import since Justin Bieber." So the two sides will have to agree to disagree, it seems.
What else is fresh and new at 510 Fifth? The formerly open interior space has been chopped in half, and the signature escalator moved aside and minimized. To make way for adaptive retail re-use, new doorways have been punched into the glass facade along Fifth Avenue. That entry reconfiguration required a whole new set of stairs and a rampway, a re-design that was barely mentioned at the public hearing before the LPC. The iconic Mosler vault door facing onto Fifth Avenue now stands alone, its black granite wall moved south and marked only by a big stripe across the floor, all to make way for a second retail space, empty and available for rent. The new Joe Fresh flagship takes up the other half of the first floor and all of the second level mezzanine.
· Joe Fresh coverage [Racked]
· 510 Fifth Avenue coverage [Curbed]